20 Healthy College Meals That Won't Bust Your Budget

Sweet Potato Quesadillas
Sweet Potato Quesadillas . Photo: Kim

Learning to cook for yourself is challenging enough, but trying to cook healthy meals on a college student's budget can seem downright impossible. Fortunately, we've curated a collection of simple, good-for-you meals for any budget. If you know a college student with limited time and money — or maybe you are that college student — you'll want to bookmark these recipes for healthy college meals.

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Vegetarian Chickpea Sandwich Filling

Vegetarian Chickpea Sandwich Filling

Going meatless, or simply cutting back on meat, is a win-win — it's good for you and your budget. This protein-packed chickpea sandwich filling makes a great alternative to tuna or chicken salad. Serve on a crusty whole grain roll or pita bread as recipe creator FISHLOVE suggests.

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Garlic Chicken with Orzo Noodles

Garlic Chicken with Orzo Noodles

This wholesome dinner comes together in just 30 minutes, and features chicken breasts, orzo pasta, and fresh spinach.

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Hummus Pizza

Hummus Pizza

Instead of ordering pizza, try making this unique alternative pizza that uses hummus instead of marinara sauce. "I had some reservations but I was blown away by this one!" says reviewer NEERONDOGS. "I'll never go back to red sauce again."

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Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Sweet Potato Quesadillas
Sweet Potato Quesadillas. Kim

Sweet potatoes, chopped pecans, ground nutmeg, red onion, and feta cheese make a unique and nutritious filling for these easy quesadillas. Serve with salsa on the side or on top.

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Sweet Pepper Pasta Toss with Kale

Sweet Pepper Pasta Toss with Kale
Patrese Nesbitt

Dress up farfalle (bow tie) pasta with bell peppers, kale, garlic, spices, and feta cheese. It's a great way to sneak in some veggies.

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Chicken with Garlic, Basil, and Parsley

57653.jpg Chicken with garlic, basil, and parsley

Chicken is seasoned simply with dried herbs and fresh tomato and baked until juicy. It's a good idea to keep frozen chicken breasts on hand so you can easily thaw them and use them to cook simple dinners like this one.

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Vegan Pumpkin Oatmeal

Vegan Pumpkin Oatmeal

Instead of tossing a breakfast bar in your backpack, start the morning right with this protein-rich oatmeal made with oats, soy milk, pumpkin puree, ground cinnamon, walnuts, and honey.

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Portobello Mushroom Caps and Veggies

Three portobello mushroom caps with sautéed veggies on top on red platter
Chef Mo

While you may not be able to afford a steak dinner on a college budget, you can enjoy these portobello mushroom cap "steaks" topped with onion and bell peppers.

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Simple Lemon Herb Chicken

Simple Lemon Herb Chicken

Here's a super versatile chicken recipe that you can serve with just about any side dish. Try it served over spring green mix or with a side of frozen vegetables for a quick and easy dinner.

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Easiest Spicy Cod

tilapia with red sauce in casserole dish
France C

White fish like cod or tilapia are some of the cheapest on the market, and their mild flavor takes well to just about any sauce. In this recipe, cod is baked in salsa for a spicy kick.

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Cherry Almond Oatmeal

Cherry Almond Oatmeal
Alberta Rose

The combination of vanilla almond milk and dried tart cherries makes boring oatmeal something you'll actually look forward to in the morning. You can switch it up with your choice of milk (try chocolate as recipe creator wisweetp suggests) and a bit of honey or agave nectar.

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Paleo Teriyaki Stir-Fry Zoodles (Gluten Free)

zoodles, carrots, lettuce, in wok

Whether or not you're on the paleo diet, this stir-fry is a great way to have a plate full of vegetables. Use a box grater or a vegetable peeler to make zoodles if you don't have a spiralizer.

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Peanut Butter and Maple Oatmeal

oatmeal with peanut butter in bowl

Oatmeal with peanut butter will give you the energy you need to start the day. You can also use quick oats instead of steel-cut to save time.

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"Skinny" Chicken Tacos

"Skinny" Chicken Tacos
Buckwheat Queen

Here's a lightened up take on tacos that doesn't skimp on flavor: "Pretty darn tasty! The fresh taste of the lime just makes this dish so unique," says Allrecipes Allstar Buckwheat Queen.

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Zucchini Linguine

Zucchini Linguine
Kim's Cooking Now

This throw-together linguine makes a great alternative to heavier, cream-based pasta dishes. Garlic, zucchini, Cheddar cheese, and nonfat yogurt are all you need to transform plain linguine into an exciting dinner.

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Orange Chicken with Asparagus

bowl with rice, asparagus, and orange chicken

Opt for this lighter, healthier orange chicken instead of takeout. Serve over rice.

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LaWanna's Mango Salsa on Tilapia Fillets

LaWanna's Mango Salsa on Tilapia Fillets
Photo by Baking Nana.

Mild tilapia is seasoned with a pepper blend, pan-fried, and topped with a vibrant fruit salsa. This recipe can also be made with salmon instead of tilapia.

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Vegan Smoothie Bowl with Carrot and Banana

Vegan Smoothie Bowl with Carrot and Banana

Sometimes smoothies are just more fun when served with a spoon. Medjool dates, banana, carrot, almond milk, cinnamon, and ginger combine to make a sweet smoothie with a striking color. Top with coconut and goji berries.

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Kadai Chicken

chicken with red peppers and tomatoes served over quinoa
Buckwheat Queen

Dried red chile peppers and tomatoes are all you need to prepare this super simple dinner that's as good as it is easy. Serve with quinoa or rice.

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Asian Cabbage and Tea Rice

rice with edamame, peanuts, and peppers
Soup Loving Nicole

Rice is cooked in green tea-infused water and topped with steamed cabbage, edamame, almonds, and bell pepper.

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More Recipes for College Students:

spaghetti carbonara on white plate
Allrecipes Magazine
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